Category Archive: Empowered


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Have you ever wondered how best to help a loved one or friend in a way that retains his dignity? While my brother and sister-in-law, Arnold and Carol, were here last week, we talked a good deal about the concept of “agency”.

Arnold’s definition of agency is “power and ability to do what you want to do.” He says “People with disabilities have lost some agency. People without power have lost some agency. Women have less agency in general than men because of cultural stereotypes and limitations. Prisoners have had agency removed from them by the courts.”

My brother has given a lot of thought to this topic because his wife, Carol, suffered a life-altering stroke six and a half years ago. There are things she can’t do herself any more; and activities with which she needs help.

Our mother has also lost some ability to do things she wishes to do, and therefore, some power. Mom’s mind is still quite clear; however, her legs are getting weaker. She’s fallen twice in the last two months. She has thought for awhile about possibly moving into the Assisted Living section of the senior manor where she lives.

Living independently at 97 is quite a feat, but we wondered if it was still wise for Mom. Of course we children want her to be safe. Arnold put it well when he said he sees his role with Carol, his wife, to be that of providing agency–or power, ability and environment for her to decide and to act as she wishes, rather than by simply doing things for her.

So this Christmas we, along with brothers Bob and Melvyn and their wives, talked with each other, and with Mom, asking questions like what situations would cause her to say “It’s time,” “I’m ready,” “I need to move.” She also asked whether we would be disappointed in either decision–to move or to stay. We set her mind at ease regarding that, and told her our desire is to help her achieve her goals, not to impose ours on her.

And she’s decided she’s not yet ready to leave the cottage which she loves and has decorated with precious mementos from the family home she shared with Dad. So our role is to support her, to help identify ways she can get additional help i.e. with taking care of her patio and plants, and to fill in some of the gaps for her on a more regular basis.

I appreciated Arn’s explanation of agency. When we help someone achieve their dreams, meet their own needs or make decisions that we then help facilitate, the person retains his dignity. He or she is acting rather than being acted upon, as it would be if we told that individual what to do.

There are certainly situations where safety or protection are so critical, or abilities so limited, that decisions must be made for another. But when there are still decision-making capabilities, how much better to help in that process.

Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? He took the penalty for my sins and yours, something we are incapable of doing for ourselves, and freed us, gave us the power and ability to walk with God through faith in Him.

Do you have someone in your life who lacks agency, or the capacity or power to act on his or her own behalf? If so, how can you help that individual identify or communicate their choices and then facilitate those choices to become a reality?


Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

Amman, Jordan. Five hundred thousand refugees in one camp. Don and I looked out the bus window to our right, viewing an ocean of earth-colored tents stretching as far as our eyes could see. I believe that was the same camp Pastor Val showed us this weekend as she spoke of her recent visit to Jordan.

Zaatari Refugee Camp

Zaatari Refugee Camp

She told us of the two biggest camps–one filled with Christians fleeing ISIS, the other with Muslims escaping ISIS–Muslim on Muslim violence. Val met some of the Christians and pastors in the camps. Most have fled their countries with only the clothing on their backs. Children band together when they have lost their parents. The needs are tremendous.

Valerie was there to investigate ways in which we at Twin Lakes Church can help. Jordan’s resources are being sorely taxed with their open borders allowing those fleeing persecution to enter.

I loved hearing Val’s challenge and appreciate her heart for how Jesus wants us to help. “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” (I Thess 5:15 NIV)

If God cares so much for the sparrow, who is here today and gone tomorrow, how much more does He care for these displaced persons. I look forward to hearing more as we learn how we can participate in His love for these refugees.

Father, thank you that you care for the displaced and terrorized refugees in Jordan, as well as in other parts of the world. Help me not to hide from the agony of their stories, but to eagerly watch for and participate in ways to help. I do feel overwhelmed at times … what can my little piece do to help? But you multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed five thousand; and you can do that with our offerings as well. Guide us as we seek your wisdom to help these traumatized peoples.


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Information Overload

“Think fast, shop now: save 40-60% on bed and bath closeouts”

“Activation Alert – Respond Now”

“Blood drive … mortgage payment due … 21% off ends tonight … campaign highlights … you’ve been chosen … last day … last day …”

Information Overload

Information Overload

Do you, like me, ever feel overwhelmed by the information overload coming our way over the internet, telephone, and mail?

Pastor Rene reminded us this weekend that when the Pharisees were trying to goad Jesus into saying something for which they could condemn Him, they asked which was the most important commandment.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

If I am to love God and my neighbor, I need to assess what drains my love. One of those drains is uncontrolled input overload. Rene said we live in such a media-saturated culture that we can actually suffer second-hand Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We are faced on every side withroller coaster mayhem

  • requests for financial support – political, social, faith-based
  • images of horror in our world, far away and near
  • knowledge of the many kinds of evil around us; and
  • a myriad of advertisements, trying to get us to purchase more and more we don’t need, with money we may not have.

When I see an accident and can help, I am loving others. When faced with an unexpected interruption, I recognize it may be God’s direction to change my priorities that day. But there are things I can control. I’m making some changes so my energy for loving God and others can remain high.

  1. I’ve chosen to stop watching some television that isn’t helpful to my spirit
  2. I’ve just unsubscribed from a number of “good causes” because I can’t commit to all of them.
  3. I’ve unsubscribed from some shopping sites because I can waste a lot of time there. And
  4. I no longer read every email or every online post.

While I want to be aware of key world events, many of the above have nothing to do with the needs of others and more to do with stimulating my selfish desires, preying on guilt (“you should give to every worthy cause …”), or simply taking up time that could be more productive for the Kingdom. I don’t need to give mental real estate to everything that comes my way. A wise man encouraged us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Love God, Love Others

Love God, Love Others

Lord, continue your work in progress in me. Help me to focus on you, to see the pain and agony in our world through your eyes. I desire to love you first so that I can then love others with the love you have poured into me. 

“Success to Significance”

“California?” Eyebrows lifting behind the frames of his glasses, the man walking toward us in blue jeans on the other side of the gate gave us a wide grin.


“Welcome!” He opened the gate and led us into the area of the Garden Tomb, believed by many to be the place where Jesus was buried following His crucifixion.

“I’m Joe.” He led us to a seating area from which we looked out at the hill of Golgotha, just a few steps away.

“When I first came to Israel, this was the place that touched my heart most,” Joe explained, “so I love returning and leading tour groups.”

Unassuming, gentle, quiet, with a smile that creased his face, Joe’s appearance wasn’t outstanding in any way. He was just a nice man who loved Jesus. But we later learned that Joe had in fact been a powerful business mogul. Having published ROLLING STONE and NEW YORKER magazines, as well as several other publications, Joe was in the upper echelon of New York society. While Jackie Kennedy was still alive, he periodically escorted her to events; and lunched with her weekly.

According to a blog, “Joe Armstrong, who is otherwise known as the Mayor of Michael’s, took his usual perch, Table No. 3, on Tuesday as the suits began filling the room.”

“Carly Simon was once quoted — in an article by William Styron’s daughter — calling him ‘probably the most loved person in New York.'”

Success? or Significance?

Success? or Significance?

But this power broker now volunteers as a tour guide at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem two months a year; and at Habitat for Humanity seven months.

Why was he willing to exchange his power lunches, elite dinner invitations, and fame in order to volunteer, living in a small apartment while helping others?

I love Joe’s answer: “I made a choice to move from success to significance.”

Wow. That statement challenges me for sure. How about you?